Modernism and Manet

Katherine will be our guru for this article and part of the rebus is figuring out why we are reading this for Portraiture….but there’s a method to my madness. Here are some thoughts: To me this painting embodies the birth of modernism. Though analyzed to death, what are some of the new ways that this author looks at “Le Dejeuner?” What are the “indoor” elements in this work? Was it difficult for you to see the painting within the painting? Does the divided pointer/painter/man trouble you or does the author’s skillful use of visual sources satisfy you? On page 204, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar? Discuss. In discussing the levels of reality and a work doubling as an allegory of the art of painting, did anyone else miss Vermeer? Remember that inscription I always cite: “Which are you drinking? the water or the wave?” Do you in the end agree with this reading of the painting?

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8 responses

  1. Hello everybody —

    Sorry these questions are coming in so late. My computer has been on the fritz and I thought that they had gone through last night via my phone, but apparently not. Sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you all. Donna hit on a lot of areas I am interested in discussing but I will add just so that it is asked explicitly, do you all feel that “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” is functioning as a self-portrait for Manet? Laessøe spends a great deal of time showing the way that various figures in Manet’s paintings can be seen as the artist himself based on physical likeness/source materials/pose/etc, but were you convinced? And if you are, what implications might this have for how we read the painting in general and in the broader discussion of our class?

    On 205 when comparing Manet’s pointing fingers to Michelangelo’s from the “Creation of Adam”, Laessøe writes that he believes that the pointing fingers reveal a subtle subtext of the pointing as a sign for painting but also pointing as creating life. The notion of artist as God is by no means new, but what did you all think about this bold statement?

    In last week’s Art 360 class with Nell we spent a lot of time thinking about what does and does not make an article or argument convincing. If it’s alright, I’d like to focus the most amount of time thinking about what Laessøe did well and what he could have changed in this article to make it more convincing. This can include specific points he makes, his writing style, visual analyses and use of images, or really anything you all think is relevant!

    See you all tomorrow. Oh, and Happy April Fools!

  2. Thanks Katherine! I thought it was really interesting how the author wanted to put a name to the face of the man in “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe.” I understand that artists have put themselves in their own portraits before to made their status seem more important, but an artist who puts themselves in a scene which has no implication of their status seems a little odd. I think that I was partially convinced, but I would really like to know what others think as well!

    As for the pointing fingers I was particularly interested when Laessøe writes, “Manet”-fingers is not only a notion of “pointing-as- painting”but of “pointing/painting as creating-‘life”‘ and con- sequently a notion of “the artist as God.” Is this really what he was trying to create? It is pretty convincing because even the man close to Manet with support said that the artist was running on this track with his works as being “overcharged.” (205)

    I’m excited to discuss this article and can’t wait to see what everyone else has to say!

  3. Wow, I am so impressed that Rolf Laessøe was able to strengthen his argument with the little details. I found it really interesting that so much scholarship has been done on this work with little success. Talk about the elephant in the room when he comments about the absurdity of the painting. I guess I have taken for granted the significance of the set background. I had no idea that painting in a set rather than outdoors could change so much about a painting’s interpretation. Forgive me for my little art history experience. I felt that overall his argument was very strong, but he definitely could have organized the article better. Certain sections seemed imbalanced in comparison to others.

    The other thing that really struck me about this article was the sense of a painting within a painting. Very mise en abyme esq. It reminded me a lot of the still life paintings, and the female self-portraits we focused on recently. I’m really curious to know how art historians reacted to this scholarship and how it affected our interpretations of Manet.

  4. So far for me in the reading what got to me the most was what was spoken on page 198 about how the it seemed like a painting within a painting. Whether the results that lead to the speculation were indeed Manet’s intentions is beyond me, but to simply call it a a painting in a painting simply due to the fractures of the spaces or the differences of the brush stroke that lead the women to seem more “loose” and sketchy compared to the rest of the foreground seems highly suspect…

    I don’t want to seem like a critic but the whole effect that piques everyone’s interest all seems to be given too much credit in my opinion. It’s almost as if it were done by two different people and even seems a little cartoony. Am I the only one that feels this way?

  5. Oh Dr. Sadler… I am afraid I must protest! C’est Baudelaire who embodies the birth of modernism! After all, he did coin the term “modernité” 🙂

    I kid, I kid. I do think that this is when painting becomes “modern.” (WARNING! Tangent ahead!) However, this work does in fact remind me of Baudelaire’s poetry! This article talks about how “certain parts of Manet’s painting were rendered with a different facture” (198) In other words, that there are two different styles of painting happening in this work. This occurs in the poetry of Monsieur Modernité (haha) himself– he often uses two divergent styles in his poems. For example, I am working on one poem right now that is composed of 28 lines– divided in half, that makes two perfect petrarchan sonnets put together– so he joins the classic/ ancient with his new modern style. He also uses very classic lines reminiscent of renaissance poetry (i.e. “her lips red like strawberries..”) and mixes them with his own modern style (using words like “hate” and talking about lesbians in his poetry– which was a no no at the time). I hope you don’t mind the slight tangent, but I do love when I can find similarities between works of different media. Back to Manet!!

    I kind of love the idea of the painting within a painting! The diagram is a great support for this theory, as are his inclusion of the “little details” (said my friend Jess). I very much appreciate the way he presents his argument almost like he would an argument in a court of law– it’s all very logical, with diagrams, and he even uses legal terms (“A piece of circumstantial evidence…”[202])!

    An issue I had: on page 201, the author says that the pointing man is “clearly [always a dangerous word when used in opinion essays!!!] the most important (male) protagonist of the scene, and its only active agent with his pointing gesture”– what about Victorine (the nude) with her very active and implicating gaze? I have always thought of *her* as the most important and most active protagonist of this work! It’s always interesting when two people have such different readings of the same work! Despite this thought, I do find his argument compelling enough that I can still go along with it.

  6. I have always been fascinated with this work of Manet’s so this article was enjoyable on many levels. At first I was skeptical of the author’s argument that the pointing male in the foreground could be Manet but he did a good job supporting his claim. I specifically found the comparison to Michealangelo’s “Creation of Adam” interesting. God’s pointing finger is symbolic of creation just as a painters might be. I am not sure if the author fully convinced me that “Le Dejeuner sur l’herbe” is a painting within a painting. Although he supports that argument with several examples and even provides diagrams to help explain I was not entirely sold! When he discusses the fracture of the two women in the picture and notes that it is because of the differing brush strokes I did not see it. To me, the only noticeable difference between these “fractures” is the light source that is present around the kneeling female in the background.

  7. It’s interesting that you say that you were not convinced despite the author’s use of diagrams—-I found the latter detracted from his argument by trying to impose a sort of scientific rigor upon it. Ever since I read this article, I have seen the painting within the painting—-whether or not that was Manet’s intention!

  8. I find it strange how a painting seems absurd in the past is looked at today from the same lens. I definitely think that the work causes for us to look at it closely. One example is the indoor elements: the woman’s clothes, a still life arrangement, sets, and family visitors. If I had not read the article, I would not have thought twice about it. Regarding the idea of a painting within a painting, I can see where he is coming from. There seems to be a noticeable difference in the background between the foreground and the background. Certain parts are more loosely painted then others.

    I always find it a bit problematic when we begin to say that the artist is in the portrait. When an artist is in the portrait, it often causes for more emphasis to be placed on the artist and why he decided to include himself in his portrait. Although he gives many examples, there are multiple ways that they can be seen. I don’t really know if it is Manet but I stil need more proof in order to come to the thesis.

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